Review of Ink and Bone (The Great Library, #1)
By Rachael Caine
What if instead of inventing the device that changed the world of knowledge, Gutenberg was branded a heretic and the printing press was suppressed? Books were never freely distributed among the populace , but were the private property of the Library of Alexandria, and artifices guarded the Library against any incursion. That is the premise of Ink and Bone, Rachel Caine’s fascinating new series. I was given an advanced copy from Ace/Roc for a fair review.
Jess Brightwell was raised in a family that outwardly appeared to be honorable, though not extremely wealthy. In 2025 London, books were only in your home if you purchased a special dispensation to have an electronic copy, somewhat like our tablets. No book was original, hand printed, or special….unless you were a collector, and you trafficked in bootleg, black market books. That was the secret sideline of the Brightwells. Jess had been running books to those who could afford to pay for them since he was a child. Some of these were true collectors and scholars who treasured the written page, but some were perverts. Jess brought the last book in his running career to one of these, an Ink Licker, who purchased a one of a kind book and proceeded to eat each page in front of him, like a drug addict.
Jess’s father purchased a commission to have Jess join the Library, and learn all it’s secrets. He was to go to their school with the end result of being offered a lifelong job within the sacred walls and spy for his family. But it wasn’t going to be easy, and certainly not as simple as his father and brother expect it to be. The world is in turmoil, with war between Wales and England, and the Burners, people who want all books abolished. When his education is done, where will his loyalties lie?
I appreciate the completely unique world Caine has invented, one which is at once archaic and technologically up to date. Intellectual suppression and innate mechanical skill has created an odd mix of automatons and Victorian styled society whose every thought is urged to be set down daily in their Codex (diary) but if they produce anything new, it is only allowed if authorized by the Library. Individuals that have skills that the Library can use are often conscripted against their will. One group of people who have almost magical powers are the Obscurists. When their powers manifest, they are whisked away to the Iron Tower, never to set foot outside again.
Our story follows Jess and his fellow group of postulants who are striving to be the last six to be accepted into the Library. They all have different talents that the Library can use, and they all have secrets. They are led by Scholar Wolfe, who has his own mysteries. Is he their guardian or their enemy?
I am looking forward to the next volume in this series, as this one has only whetted my appetite.
I finished this book on April 26, 2015.